The transportation industry seems to be always in a rush because of a tight deadline. Unfortunately, this reality is oftentimes the reason why many drivers become aggressive drivers. Aggressive driving is an accident waiting to happen and it can endanger the lives of other motorists.
Moreover, even the most experienced and careful drivers are also at risk of a crash and other dangers while on the road. That is because of the combination of other factors including the presence of aggressive drivers, unpredictable weather and road conditions, among others. Fortunately, by observing certain defensive driving techniques, you can protect yourself from possible accidents.
Vital Elements of Defensive Driving:
Visibility – Be alert and actively check your surroundings.
Space – A cushion of space around your vehicle and trailer that gives you adequate time and space to react to avoid an accident.
Communication – A way to inform other drivers of your presence and lets them know of your next move so they can adjust accordingly.
10 Defensive Driving Techniques that Can Save Lives
1. Keep looking far ahead.
Looking far ahead allows you to react in a safe and timely manner to changing conditions ahead. This also helps you avoid abrupt braking situations which can lead to accidents if you are not able to respond quickly enough.
Ideally, you should look and anticipate at least 15 seconds ahead of you. That is approximately a quarter of a mile on the interstate and one and a half blocks for city driving.
2. Take a break when you feel drowsy.
Frequent yawning, blurry vision and heavy eyes are the key signs of drowsiness you should watch out for. If you feel drowsy or sluggish, pull over and take a break. Your safety is more important than your deadline.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleepiness can impair driving performance as much or even more than alcohol. When you feel drowsy, there is a big chance that you’ll get involved in a dangerous situation such as drifting out of your lane or having a slower response time when fast action is needed. Ultimately, drowsiness may lead you to serious accidents.
Shockingly, many truck drivers admitted falling asleep behind the wheel in the past year. Following rules on Hours of Service (HOS) is important not just for compliance, but for preventing driver fatigue that can cause drowsiness at work.
3. Maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you.
A safe distance depends on the type of vehicle in front of you, weather conditions and the speed you are travelling, among other various factors. A loaded truck or trailer travelling at 65 mph will take about 525 feet to stop safely. It means that the safe stopping distance under the situation is equivalent to the length of two football fields. And that is under fair weather conditions.
Moreover, the Department of Highway Safety recommends that a truck stays 8 seconds behind the vehicle at the front. You should adjust depending on road and weather conditions as both affect your braking distance.
4. Check your mirrors.
The mirrors are your eyes that allow you to see as much of what’s around your vehicle or trailer. Check your mirrors regularly so you can properly take the necessary actions as soon as needed.
Scan the horizon and continuously check your mirrors. Your eyes should always be moving and taking in as much information as possible. For example, if you notice that the car in front of you is slowing down, start braking. If you are fixated only on the car in front of you, you might not notice another car coming into your lane, which could result in an accident.
5. Avoid distractions.
Distracted driving accounts for thousands of deaths every year. Common distractions include the use of cellphone and eating while driving. Avoid any distractions while you are behind the wheel. If you have to use your phone or do other things that remove your focus from driving, pull over to a safe location.
6. Have an emergency plan in case of sudden changes in weather.
Road conditions typically change with the weather. And it will be more challenging to drive under heavy rains or when it is snowing. That is why it makes a big difference if you have a plan B in case the weather suddenly changes while you are still on the road.
If you are driving where there is a possibility of heavy snow, it’s a good idea to bring tire chains and emergency supplies.
7. Don’t take medications that cause drowsiness.
Before you get behind the wheel, avoid taking medications that induce drowsiness. Cold and allergy medicines usually have drowsiness-inducing ingredients. Be sure to check the labels if you have to take a certain medication or supplement before you drive.
8. Don’t eat while driving.
Eating while driving is not only messy but also dangerous as it causes physical and visual distractions. You’d normally have to remove one or both hands from the steering wheel when you eat or drink a beverage. Not only that, it will also remove your attention from the road. One study suggests that eating while driving is riskier than talking on a cellphone while driving.
As part of defensive driving, make sure to eat before driving. Or if you are in the middle of a long drive and you feel the need to eat, pull over first and eat safely.
9. Pay close attention to brake lights in front of you.
Being aware of the brake lights of the vehicles in front of you helps you react immediately to changing conditions and avoid bumping the rear end of the other vehicle.
10. Guard your blind spots.
Other drivers may not be aware of your blind spots. For vehicles towing a trailer, your blind spot may be large enough for a small vehicle to disappear from your view. To avoid accidents, be vigilant in watching for vehicles coming in and out of your blind spots.
Practicing defensive driving is important for hotshot truckers and all other drivers. It can save not just your life but the life of other commuters. By following those ten defensive driving techniques, you can be assured of a safer and more pleasant hotshot trucking.